I was the fifth of seven children born within nine years and three months. Mom ended up being a single parent, raising us wildlings on her own. She worked two and three jobs at a time, just trying to keep a roof over our heads and food on our table.
I relate to Bill Anderson’s lyrics, “We was po’ folks livin’ in a rich folks world, we sure was a hungry bunch. And if the wolf would ever come to our front door he’d had to brought a picnic lunch.” One day Mom returned from the grocery store with a treat, chocolate milk powder! We were ecstatic. She lined our cups up in a row and divvied up the powder. My palate was already so satiated, instead of waiting for her to come back around with the milk, I filled my cup with water. I can still taste that nasty stuff when the memory surfaces.
We were Old Oder Mennonite. We didn’t have a television. Mom won one once through a sweepstakes and told the caller of good news to give that box to someone else. We didn’t have radios either, except the one my brother wired through a wooden contraption to bring in a signal so we could listen to “Country Gold Saturday Night,” and the occasional 8-Track or cassette player we hid in our rooms. Even our toy selection was limited. Mom did some babysitting from time to time, and those kids brought toys we would never have otherwise been allowed to play with, including toy soldiers and dinosaurs. Once, the minister surprised us with a visit in his horse and buggy and we stuffed all those “worldly” toys in the shower until he was gone.
We did some reckless stuff! Things that would make my now mother’s heart cringe to think of my own children doing. But our upbringing made us stronger, more resilient, more creative. We made up the game tripper, but I won’t share the details. We made a sliding board with a long kitchen bench and a chair. I don’t advise that, either. We sat on our bums, only occasionally using cushions or sleeping bags, and bumper-car’d down our stairs.
We played games that I have no idea the origin, but I’ll share below, ones that meet my “mom safety criteria.” My brother made a periscope using tin cans, electrical tape, and mirrors and we spied on our neighbors. Mom made tea parties on a blanket in the yard, with butter slathered on soda crackers and little cups of water. We climbed trees and wondered the neighborhood, rode bikes, swam in rivers and horses watering troughs, made hay tunnels, and found endless ways to entertain ourselves. We never thought of ourselves as poor. We only felt a little deprived when we visited our “worldly cousins,” who had TVs.
That creativity didn’t come from an easy place, but it’s handy in these days of quarantine from COVID – 19. If you’re stuck at home with children these days and are wondering how to entertain, here are some ideas. You can also do an Internet search for tons of other creative ideas.
PLEASE, don’t expect a spotless house during these shenanigans or this quarantine, although cleaning and cleaning up together can become part of the fun.
Some of these are better for younger children, some better for older children. Assess, adapt, and use your own creativity!
- Have a tea party. You don’t need crumpets and sandwiches! Or even tea, for that matter. Use what you have. Keep it simple. A blanket on the floor, a bowl of dry cereal, and water, or something of that nature. It’s the experience your kids will remember!
- I mentioned the indoor sliding board with a bench and a chair, but a much safer activity for younger children is a “chair choo choo train.” Line up your kitchen chairs, Play with them. Have them tell you where you’re going and what kinds of things you’ll do when you get there. Our youngest takes me to Hawaii, South America, Africa, and New York on her train.
- Here’s a game called, “Are You Able to Pass the Shoe Without Mistake. This one is definitely better for elementary ages and up if you really want to get competitive! We used stuffed animals for this demonstration, since shoes are, well, pretty gross to actually play with.
- Make homemade play doh. Here’s a screenshot of the recipe I use. I will try to post the recipe on our site later.
- Here’s a game sacrilegiously titled, Mennonite Manners. You will need a piece of paper for each player, a pair of dice, and one pen. Each player sits around the table with a piece of blank paper. Lined or unlined is fine. Just enough space to write numbers from 1-100. There’s ONE pen in the middle of the table. Someone starts by rolling the dice. If they do NOT roll a double, the player to their left rolls. The first person to roll doubles, picks up the pen and starts writing the numbers 1-100 on their paper. Meanwhile, everyone else continues rolling. The next person to roll doubles grabs the pen from the current writer and begins writing 1-100 on their own paper. The game continues, one person furiously writing on their own paper until someone else rolls a double and grabs the pen. First person to get to 100, wins! Just watch your eyeballs! Grabbing the pen can get pretty competitive. The person holding the pen needs to release it when someone else rolls doubles and grabs it, not try to keep them from getting it.
- Blanket Forts goes without saying. Our kids never tire of a good blanket fort, and the older they are, the more complicated and complex they can be with their creation.
- Fashion Shows allows kids to be creative with their own wardrobe or dress up clothes. If you’re not too picky, I’m not, let them go through your closet, too!
- Make a zip line for stuffed animals. Secure a string higher on one wall and lower on the opposing wall. Safety pin or tape the animals arms together over top of the string, as if they were hanging on a zip line. You’ll likely have to aid in the zipping part.
- Make an indoor hopscotch space. Just be sure whatever tape you use for the outline doesn’t ruin the floor. I learned that the hard way!
- Take old newspapers, sales fliers, or scratch papers and crumple them into “snowballs.” Then have an indoor snowball fight.
- Invite the kids to make up their own game, including strategies and rules, and teach the rest of the family. Play with them as your schedule allows. Play card games, board games, and puzzles.
What ideas would YOU share with our readers?